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American Federation for Children Condemns Teachers Union Bullying of Louisiana Schools

Posted on Thursday July 26, 2012 | Louisiana

As low-income families access scholarships, threat from union lawyers aims to hurt thousands of families statewide

BATON ROUGE, LA (July 26, 2012)—The American Federation for Children—the nation’s voice for school choice—today condemned the actions of the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), after counsel for the teachers union yesterday sent threatening letters to schools participating in Louisiana’s statewide voucher program, urging them to drop out of the program or face a lawsuit from the union.

The letter comes despite a judge’s ruling two weeks ago that dismissed a union attempt to get an injunction stopping the program.

In the letter, which was faxed to participating voucher schools yesterday evening, a law firm retained by the LAE union threatens to initiate litigation against individual schools if they do not pledge—in writing—by 4 p.m. local time tomorrow to cease participation in the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence (SSEE) program.

Kevin P. Chavous, a senior advisor to the Federation, denounced the bullying tactics as a remarkably cruel attempt to block children from attending the schools their parents have chosen for them.

“It’s despicable that adults would use the threat of legal action to stop schools from accepting students who desperately want a better education, thereby squashing their dreams and those of their parents,” Chavous said. “Even by standards of the typical special interest bullying tactics, this is an unbelievably demeaning and insulting action that aims ultimately to hurt the futures of thousands of children.”

The threatening letters to schools on behalf of LAE are in contrast with the strong demand for the program. LAE’s actions came just a day after the Department of Education announced the extension of 5,637 scholarship offers to students to participate in the program this fall—just a portion of the 10,300 applications the Department received—illustrating that any attempts to stop schools from participating in the program are at odds with the demand from  parents.

Of the initial scholarship offers, 84 percent of students in first through 12th grade attended a school rated “D” or “F” by the state last year.

An accountability proposal from the department was also approved by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) on Tuesday, further strengthening the program prior to yesterday’s bullying letters.

Chavous, a former D.C. City Council member who has also worked for years to reform education in Louisiana, reiterated that the recent LAE move was unprecedented in its callousness.

“Personal power should never, ever be put ahead of the best interest of disadvantaged children,” Chavous said. “These union leaders have no shame.”